UI alumnus creates campus Wikipedia, welcomes content

By Meghan O'Kelly

Although Richard Cornish lives in Lawrence, Kan., he is using the Internet to stay close to his alma mater.

Cornish, who works for the Lawrence Journal-World, left the University last December with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism. A few months later, he founded uofiwiki.org.

“I realized that a lot of people have a lot of knowledge about the University and they don’t really have an outlet to share that with anybody,” he said.

Cornish used software created by Wikipedia to construct the site, which is reminiscent of its well-known predecessor.

“There’s a very large trust factor now because Wikipedia stands for something,” Cornish said. “I thought it would be good to have the overall look and feel of it but overall customize it with things like the University’s logo and color scheme.”

The objective of the site is to facilitate information sharing among University students, staff, alumni and the Champaign-Urbana community. Like Wikipedia, anyone can post and edit articles.

“Anyone can go to the site and edit anything they want, that they deem to be fair or appropriate, and save it and know that they don’t have to have an editor or someone else higher up telling them what to do,” Cornish said.

The site contains 55 articles, which include “Bruce Weber,” “Kam’s” and “Illini Union.” Cornish said he is the main contributor to the site.

John Arends, a network analyst for the College of ACES, is a fellow administrator of U of I Wiki and has also contributed content to the site for fun.

“I thought it was a neat idea,” he said. “I thought it was relatively easy to do.”

Cornish said he hopes others will begin participating in the site. He said he thinks people too often shy away from contributing content because they are not confident with their writing skills.

“Ultimately, someone else is going to look at it, and it’s going to be cleaned up naturally,” he said. “Participation is a big deal.”

Upon its launch in May, the site received about 25 unique visits a day, Cornish said. That number has dwindled, but Cornish said he prefers to gauge the site’s success by the number of articles and edits.

“What’s important is the information,” he said. “I’m not concerned about how many people are looking at it. That would be great for it ultimately, to be a research tool for people.”

Cornish started the site with his own money. He has advertised on Facebook, but he said he relies mostly on word of mouth. Hosting the Web site costs $19 a month, while the domain name is $10 a year. U of I Wiki also has Google AdSense advertisements, but Cornish said they do not earn significant revenue.

“Running a Web site is not as expensive as one might think,” he said.

Cornish admitted his idea is still an experiment, and he hopes the amount of content continues to grow.

“Frankly, I didn’t know if this was going to work and if it would still catch on. I still don’t,” he said. “The thing I would want people to know is that they don’t have to sit in the audience.”